EDMORE — The majority of the Edmore Village Council is refusing to remove unsafe playground equipment from the Glenn D. Curtis Memorial Park, despite pleas and warnings from the village manager.
Village Manager Neil Rankin recently surveyed the park at 307 E. Forrest St. and found several playground items to be dangerous. At Monday’s village council meeting, he presented the council with photographs and a detailed report of the unsafe conditions as follows:
• The curved slide lacks fall protection and has exposed slide footing, chipping paint, a rusted base, questionable structural integrity, exposed sharp metal edges and bare metal slide material. The slide also does not meet the vertical side height for the curved chute.
• The wooden pirate ship lacks fall protection, has enclosed and confined spaces, lacks appropriate rails and handholds, has a soft and rotting deck, ineffective wood sealer and splitting wood with slivers. The pressure-treated wood dating back to pre-2000 also has arsenic that leaches into the soil.
• The wooden truck lacks fall protection and has a damaged handgrip, protruding screwheads, a damaged ladder, a splitting and rotting surface and nails that have been pulled out. The treated wood also dates back to pre-2000.
• The “human hamster wheel” has pinch hazards inside, poorly functioning bearings, a rusted serrated edge on the sheet metal roof and protruding bolts on the inside and outside. Rankin says the overall design and use of the outdated wheel could easily cause head and neck injuries.
• The merry-go-round lacks fall protection, has chipping paint and corrosion and is an older style merry-go-round, which can exceed 13 feet per second.
• The swinging metal gate has been classified not appropriate for any age by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“Not to address the conditions of the park and playground equipment is to ignore that the users are entitled to a duty owed,” Rankin told the village council. “This duty owed is a reasonable expectation that the facilities and equipment are as safe as is reasonably possible. Under my current contract and manager ordinance, there is an implied authority to address threats to the public health and safety. If you are aware, or ought to be aware, of a danger, as the manager I have an obligation to protect people from that danger.”
Rankin proposed immediately removing the unsafe playground equipment and working toward creating an open play area. The new design would incorporate the remaining playground equipment into two islands, where fall protection and new equipment would be installed to meet Consumer Product Safety Commission standards.
Rankin also proposed adding fall protection to the swings and small play structures and adding signs to the skate ramp advising skaters to wear helmets and skate at their own risk. He also proposed having the village conduct regular inspections of the playground.
As part of his plan, Rankin has already asked the Glenn D. Curtis Foundation to consider funding new playground equipment for the park, as well as fund a master plan for the park to incorporate the park with the rest of the village, trail and other recreational amenities to facilitate village grant applications as they become available in the future.
“I want to see a safe park,” Rankin told the village council. “It’s a liability to the village keeping it the way it is. I would much rather have no equipment than unsafe equipment. As sad as it is, that’s where we are right now.”
Restrooms vs. playground?
Village President Chet Guild was more concerned about improving the park restroom. He questioned why restroom improvements couldn’t be done now and paid for out of the general fund. Rankin said restroom improvements weren’t budgeted for this year.
“They’re a disaster,” said Guild of the restrooms.
Rankin said a fresh coat of paint would make the restrooms look good for another season.
“A coat of paint ain’t what we’re talking about,” said Clerk Gloria Burr. “It’s the bathrooms. Have you ever used them? Go use them and then come back and tell everybody they’re safe to use.”
Rankin said the restrooms don’t pose a serious hazard like the playground equipment does.
“We’ve got liability insurance, so why are you so worried?” asked Councilman Chuck Burr. “Why do we have liability insurance?”
“To minimize the amount of money that we would have to pay out in a lawsuit,” Rankin answered.
“Those toys have been there for 20 years,” Chuck Burr said. “We’ve never been sued once.”
“You’re lucky,” Rankin responded. “We’re really lucky.”
Gloria Burr questioned what would happen if the Foundation declined to pay for new playground equipment. Rankin said that didn’t matter as the dangerous current equipment still needs to be removed immediately.
“You’d rather have no kids down there playing on any equipment,” Gloria Burr accused. “That’s my personal opinion and I have a right to my opinion.”
Guild returned his observations to the restrooms.
“If we’re not going to do anything with those bathrooms down there, they need to be closed up for good,” he said. “I think you could call the health department and they’d tell you to close them up. I think the bathrooms are just as important as some of the playground equipment. If the playground equipment is dangerous, I think the bathrooms are too, unsanitary.”
“We can clean bathrooms,” countered Rankin. “It’s nothing to do with the bathrooms. We’ll address the bathrooms as funds become available and we can budget that. We’ll do it from the general fund next year.”
In the end, the council voted 3-4 for Rankin’s resolution to remove the dangerous playground equipment, meaning the resolution failed. Bonnie Ashbaugh, Karen Deja and Art Schuitema voted in favor of the resolution while Ed Adams, Chuck Burr, Guild and Jerry Rasmussen voted against it.
“I think those pictures told a very good story about what it’s like down there,” Ashbaugh said. “It’s terrible.”
“So are the bathrooms,” Guild replied.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the Village Council:
• Heard Police Chief Luke Sawyer and DPW Supervisor James Nessen report on local activity and storm clean-up efforts by the community.
• Scheduled a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting for 1 p.m. April 30 to hear variance requests for 1021 E. Main St. and 501 W. Main St.
• Approved new literature to promote Edmore Economic Loan Fund Development.
• Approved a $225,181.31 bid from Crawford Construction for a street project at the Sunrise property.
• Approved purchasing three variable frequency drives for $28,754 from Peerless Midwest for wells 3, 5 and 6.
• Voted 3-4 (meaning the motion failed) to accept a contract with Utility Service Co. Inc. for water tower renovation and maintenance. Ed Adams, Chuck Burr, Chet Guild and Jerry Rasmussen voted “no.”
• Voted 5-2 to form a committee to gather more information about the proposed water project and revisit the issue at May’s regular council meeting. Bonnie Ashbaugh and Art Schuitema voted “no.”
• Approved increasing village water rates by 6 percent.